Book Lists

This category is for lists of books (example: Top 10 Books for Summer Reading)

Our Year in Books: Jeremy

The Top Three Books I Didn’t Read

This list begins with a confession. I don’t read all the books. Let me be clear. I want to read all the books. I spend time with many of them, but alas I cannot read them all. At least not right away. I bring home treasured volumes and stack them high with full intent to get to them one day. Their spines are little billboards reminding me that there are amazing words within.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century Cover Image
$39.95
ISBN: 9780674430006
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard Universi - April 15th, 2014

I’m absolutely not the only person who purchased this book and hasn’t quite made it through yet. French economist Pikety stirred up a lot of passions with his analysis of the pros and cons of global capitalism. Dense and academic at times, the book is not for the faint of heart, but I expect it will reveal a great deal about our life and times.


Indigo Cover Image
By Clemens J. Setz, Ross Benjamin (Translator)
$27.95
ISBN: 9780871402684
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - November 3rd, 2014

An Austrian exploration of alienation and anxiety framed by a mystery inside a mystery. The only reason I haven’t read this yet is because it arrived in early December and I haven’t had time. As soon as things slow down, I’ll settle in to ponder the deeper questions posed by the story and its existential overtones.


Your Face in Mine Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781594488344
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - August 14th, 2014

I’m not entirely sure how I missed this debut. The story is this: A skinny white kid secretly has a radical, racial reassignment surgery to turn him into a black man. Now, he calls upon an old high school friend to help him ‘come out’ and explain himself to his family and friends. One can imagine things do not go smoothly.


The Top Three Novels I Loved the Best

I can’t do a ‘best books’ list. I try, but I can’t. There are too many books to love. There are too many books I missed. But when I think back over 2014, these titles stand out


Faces in the Crowd Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781566893541
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - May 13th, 2014

This translated novel is a shining star of 2014. The narrative shifts between a contemporary woman and the subject of her research: a Harlem jazz musician from the 1930s. Their stories unfold in a way that makes you question who is dreaming who. FACES is brilliant and beautiful. I adore this novel and can’t wait for her next. (See also: SIDEWALKS, her exceptional collection of essays.)


On Such a Full Sea Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781594632891
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - December 2nd, 2014

In Chang-Rae Lee’s dystopic landscape, China has spread across the world to create order in the unruled landscape. When Fan’s lover goes missing, she abandons that order to seek him out and in the process becomes a folk hero for a generation. The people that Fan encounters on her journey are some of the most memorable for me, particularly Miss Cathy’s ‘Girls’ and their history mural. Chang-Rae Lee comes to Brazos on January 14 for the paperback book tour.


Boy, Snow, Bird Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781594633409
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - March 3rd, 2015

I’m not entirely sure why this retelling of the Snow White story stuck with me. Could it perhaps be the exceptional writing? Or maybe it’s the extraordinarily clever use of source material. More likely, it’s that the story explores complicated, unexpected issues without judgement. You empathize with all three narrators and find that right and wrong, good and evil aren’t black or white.


The Top Three Most Beautiful Books

The book’s the thing. I know that I’m preaching to the crowd when I suggest that looking at a screen is a poor substitution for print. So take a moment and browse through all the beauties. The gorgeous editions are my favorite things to look at in the store right now.


Cover Cover Image
$60.00
ISBN: 9781576876671
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: powerHouse Books - August 5th, 2014

It’s book porn, plain and simple. COVER is an overview of the most beautiful, innovative and interesting book jackets designed by the inimitable Peter Mendelsund. A good cover design makes you want to pick the book up and never stop reading read it. Flipping through this book, I expect you’ll find dozens of new books to never stop reading, in addition to those that already grace your shelves.


North Korea: Anonymous Country Cover Image
By Julia Leeb (Photographer), Jr. Karasek (Foreword by), Niko Karasek (Foreword by)
$95.00
ISBN: 9783832798437
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Te Neues Publishing Company - September 15th, 2014

I visited South Korea earlier this fall and took a day trip to the DMZ. It was really something to peer across the line into a country and society that has been isolated from most of the world since the 1950s. German journalist and photographer visited North Korea twice (as a tourist) and snapped some of the most amazing photos I’ve seen. The images in the book from teNeus show the people, places and festivals of North Korea. Every page amazes.


Staff Pick Logo
Here Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780375406508
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon Books - December 9th, 2014

This exraordinary graphic novel defies easy description. Each page spread shows the same fixed view, but the year jumps around. Sometimes it's the 1950s and a suburban house. Sometimes its the swampy bog near the manor in the 1740s. Stories emerge. Connections are made across the years. This book will keep you looking and looking and looking.


The Top Three You Should Get Ready to Read in 2015

There is no shortage of great books on the horizon. I’ve read these already and can’t wait to get them into your hands and onto your shelves.


The Girl on the Train Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781594633669
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - January 13th, 2015

A woman rides the train, pretending to go to work, pretending to be sober, and obsessively looking at her former neighborhood, and life she used to have. When one of the objects of her obsession goes missing, she realizes that she may have been a witness to a horrible crime. Or worse yet, the perpetrator. A must-read thriller to kick off 2015. January


A Kim Jong-il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9781250054265
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Flatiron Books - February 3rd, 2015

As it turns out, the current Sony Pictures debacle with North Korea isn’t the first time that state has been involved with Hollywood intrigue. Before Kim Jong-Il was the ‘Dear Leader,’ he ran the Propaganda Ministry and produced all of North Korea’s films. In the late 1970s, he kidnapped two of South Korea’s biggest stars and forced them to work for him. This true life thriller must be read to be believed. February 5


Whisper Hollow Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781590517116
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Other Press (NY) - March 17th, 2015

Houston author Chris Cander’s debut novel from Other Press is a multi-generational epic about religion and obsession in a West Virginia coal mining town. A terrible moment in 1916 echoes across decades, shaping the way an entire community understands good and evil.


Our Year in Books: Augusta

It’s always hard to settle on your favorite books of the year. If you’re anything like me, each book is like a unique relationship--you love them all, but for different reasons. My reading taste is all over the place--literary fiction, memoir, science, essays, culture studies--but I have noticed a definite trend in the books I’m selecting. More and more, I find myself gravitating toward and enjoying books written by women. I feel there is a misconception that women can only write fluff--that they are unable to write anything that isn’t sentimental or overwrought. To my surprise, two of my favorites from the year were mentioned in this year’s New York Times 10 Best Books of 2014. Whatever the case may be, the books below left a strong impression on me and show that women’s writing can be serious, thoughtful, and important. 

The Empathy Exams: Essays Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555976712
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - April 1st, 2014

I’m naturally attracted to fiction when going to the bookstore; I like getting lost in a narrative. So I wanted to change up the pace a little bit and grabbed this collection of essays on the suggestion of a friend. And am I glad I did! THE EMPATHY EXAMS is an exploration into emotions. Told through the lens of Jamison’s own personal experiences, this meditation on health and wellness, human interactions, and trauma helped me develop a deeper understanding of why it is important that we remain open and receptive to empathizing with others. This is one of those books that I’ll return to again and again, rereading Jamison’s insightful prose.


Sidewalks Cover Image
By Valeria Luiselli, Christina Macsweeney (Translator), Cees Nooteboom (Introduction by)
$15.95
ISBN: 9781566893565
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Coffee House Press - May 13th, 2014

Coffee House Press recently translated and released this essay collection of Luiselli’s in conjunction with her novel FACES IN THE CROWD. SIDEWALKS is like a lovely flâneur’s stroll through Mexico City. Luiselli brilliantly weaves together travel, architecture, literary criticism, and voyeurism. I found myself dog-earing pages throughout to go back and make notes on...until I realized I was marking pretty much every single page. She’s the kind of writer I have a lady crush on--intellectual, well read, well traveled, with the ability for making laser sharp observations and powerful one-liners that make my jaw drop. Don’t miss this one!


Women in Clothes Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780399166563
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Blue Rider Press - September 4th, 2014

Whatever your feelings may be about the importance of fashion in your life, we all put clothes on our bodies every day. How and why we make certain choices about what we wear is the central focus of this difficult-to-classify homage to women in clothes. Hundreds of women from a variety of different backgrounds were interviewed for this collection, and it paints a beautiful picture of the diversity of styles and fashion choices across the world. Chock full of essays, interviews, photos, drawings, and narratives, this book will be a great addition to your coffee table.


Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781594632198
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - January 8th, 2014

I don’t typically gravitate towards books on political movements, but I’m glad a friend recommended this one. WORDS WILL BREAK CEMENT focuses on the cultural and political climate in modern day Russia through the lens of members of the all-girl punk rock art collective Pussy Riot. Told through interviews and personal correspondence, Gessen paints an insightful portrait into the oppression of disparate opinions, harsh criminal actions taken against these women, and their survival in the Russian prison system. Eye-opening, to say the least.


The Other Side Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781935639831
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Tin House Books - July 15th, 2014

I’m a big fan of small press publishers. In my opinion, this is where you really find the most original, creative stories, and I like to support local businesses. One of the best small presses is Tin House. I have yet to read a book they’ve published that I don’t cherish as a favorite, and Lacy Johnson’s THE OTHER SIDE is no exception. This harrowing account of her kidnapping and torture by an ex-boyfriend is certainly upsetting, but the way that she is able to evolve through this experience is remarkable. Her sparse prose is hypnotic and beautiful, her emotions raw and palpable. Despite reading this book over the course of a few hours, it clung to me for days afterwards and is one of the most powerful memoirs I’ve ever read.


Sister Golden Hair Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781935639947
Availability: Backordered
Published: Tin House Books - October 14th, 2014

Another Tin House book! This coming-of-age story set in 1970s Roanoke follows our narrator, Jesse, as she moves across the country when her father loses his job as a minister. Each section is about a particular friend Jesse makes along the way and the subsequent relationship she develops. It reminds me of Mary Miller’s THE LAST DAYS OF CALIFORNIA because it is more about atmosphere and feelings than plot progression. This quiet, introspective narrative has good YA crossover potential: there’s an awkward teenage book lover, overly emotional involvement with each new friendship, and subsequent sadness as people drift apart. As someone who prefers stories about a character’s interior life, this one was a sleeper favorite for me.


Euphoria Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780802122551
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Atlantic Monthly Press - June 3rd, 2014

This roman à clef of Margaret Mead’s adventures to Papua New Guinea tells the story of a love triangle between 1930s anthropologists. Exquisitely paced and reminiscent of HEART OF DARKNESS, the tension between the husband-and-wife research team and a fellow scientist halfway around the world in unknown territory is palpable. Historical inquiries into previously uncontacted indigenous tribes are fascinating on their own; throwing in some romantic turmoil provides for a suspenseful, engaging read. Don’t just take my word for it--the New York Times liked it too!


Life Drawing Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781400068562
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Random House - July 15th, 2014

I’m going to be honest with you--I initially picked up this book because I have the same first name as the protagonist. As silly as a reason as that may be, I was completely absorbed into the story and sped through it in two days. While you learn the outcome of the book on its very first page, it doesn’t make the intervening pages any less captivating. Gus and Owen move to a home in the country so they can both focus on their crafts and avoid the distractions of the city (namely, a previous affair by Gus). As discerning readers, we know that running away from problems never really solves anything, and drama ensues. Told through Gus’s perspective, we get a deep understanding of her psyche and how right and wrong are rarely black and white. Narratives on interior lives of characters are really what I gravitate towards, and despite the intense ending, I appreciated the depth of emotion Black was able to bring to life.


Dept. of Speculation Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9780345806871
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Books - October 7th, 2014

Of all the books I read this year, this may be my most favorite. It’s small and unassuming but packs a huge punch. Told in vignettes, it chronicles the narrator’s life, from when she first meets her future husband and their marriage and life together, to the birth of their daughter and the various changes that happen over the course of a relationship. I feel that it’s really powerful when you can express so much in so few words, and though this is difficult to pull off, Offill does it perfectly.


Station Eleven Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780385353304
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - September 9th, 2014

I read a few dystopian, post-apocalyptic novels this year, and this one was far and away the best. A mutant version of the swine flu breaks out across the world and kills most everyone in its wake. The remaining survivors find themselves struggling to live in a world without basic human necessities under the threat of ever-present violence. Featuring interconnected narratives revolving around the life and death of Arthur Leander, a stage actor, and survivors of the apocalypse, including a traveling Shakespeare troupe and orchestra, this heartfelt exploration into hope and humanity after a tragedy is beautifully rendered and reminds us that mere survival is insufficient--there is more to life than that.


Our Year in Gifts: Ulrika

Enough with the books! Our sidelines expert Ülrika gives her rundown of the year’s best gift items. 

$12.00
SKU: 3140290114289

This company makes classic stationery for all occasions. Each piece is made from 25% cotton paper (with watermark, of course), and the finish gives the subtle impression of handmade paper. However, unlike other stationery, Lalo - Vergé de France is rooted in the quality that inspired European royal courts for centuries. Fancy!


Our Year in Books: Ben

Should I agonize over a funny, smarty-pants lead-in to my list of best books of 2014—an introductory paragraph in which I find some kind of thread throughout the titles I’ve selected—in which I position my list as something cohesive?

Meh. To hell with that.

Instead, let me admit that 2014 was a year in which I mostly ceded control of what I read to external forces. The books I carried with me were ones I either had to review, or had to familiarize myself with for Brazos-related purposes (authors coming to do events, etc.). So in a year where I moved from Arizona to Texas, watched yet another unpublished novel die, and started, more or less from scratch, not one but two new “careers,” an unfocused list seems appropriate. Here are some books I read this year. I liked them all.

To begin: three special mentions—books that don’t quite seem at home on a top 10 list, but that I want to highlight anyway.

The Rise & Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781566893381
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Coffee House Press - January 14th, 2014

Minneapolis-based publisher Coffee House Press has received a lot of (deserved) attention in the second half of 2014 for Valeria Luiselli’s FACES IN THE CROWD and Eimear McBride’s A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING—and while both of those books are great, my brain keeps drifting back to January and Merkner’s debut, which went mostly unnoticed. Obsessive and purposefully flat, Merkner’s book is a triumph of unpleasantness, and his stories are Midwestern gothics, focused on bleak and colorless domestic spaces. Of course this book escaped notice: when I reviewed it at the beginning of the year, I barely knew what to do with it myself. Yet it stuck in my brain, and Merkner, if he can stay true to the dark impulses that made this book so strange and challenging, will have a great career ahead of him.


During the Reign of the Queen of Persia Cover Image
By Joan Chase, Meghan O'Rourke (Introduction by)
$14.95
ISBN: 9781590177150
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New York Review of Books - April 15th, 2014

This one came out in the early 1980s, but it had nothing in common with the popular dirty realism of Carver and Tobias Wolff. Rereleased this year by New York Review Books, Chase’s masterpiece feels fresh and timeless when removed from its initial context. In this lyrical debut, Chase tells the story of farm life from five perspectives, and the result is a fragmentary look at decades in one family. Though the novel is dense and literary, I keep thinking of it as a film, one with passages of joy that recall the coming-of-age sequences in THE TREE OF LIFE, and also passages of death that recall the greatest work of Ingmar Bergman. Yet it also recalls Marilynne Robinson and Flannery O’Connor in its straightforward portrait of spirituality—not only the wounds it can heal, but also the lies it can foster.

Also, this list would feel incomplete without mentioning the 2014 output of Columbus-based literary press Two Dollar Radio, whose recent novels—including D. Foy’s MADE TO BREAK and Shane Jones’s CRYSTAL EATERS, both of which are great—continue this publisher’s ascension into the upper tier. Two Dollar Radio produces smart and readable books that somehow all feel of a piece, despite the differences between authors. A lot of this has to do with the immediately striking design; no doubt, this press has the best branding in contemporary literary publishing. When I think of Two Dollar Radio, I think of a record label like Elephant 6: nobody mistakes Neutral Milk Hotel for Olivia Tremor Control, yet it seems that the two bands could’ve only lived under the same roof. (Read a longer review of CRYSTAL EATERS here>> )

Now, my top five books of 2014, with occasional (yes, yes, self-serving) links to longer reviews:


The Other Side Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781935639831
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Tin House Books - July 15th, 2014

#5  Anyone who knows anything about Brazos Bookstore in 2014 knows that we’ve talked a lot about Johnson’s second book—and if you’ve paid attention to the world of independent publishers at all, surely you’re familiar with the sensation of THE OTHER SIDE. You’re also no doubt familiar with the premise as recounted in endless press copy and reviews: in her early twenties, author Johnson was…on second though, you know what? I’m not going to bother with it here. Yes, there’s a brutal crime at the center of this memoir, but to describe it is to reduce Johnson’s staggering work to pulp. Johnson herself seems to agree, since she spends most of the book discussing not the crime but the aftermath—and also discussing who she is now. This is one of the most hopeful and redemptive books I’ve ever read. Despite its darker undercurrents, it ultimately tells a love story between a woman and her family, providing in the process a microscopic view of what it’s like to heal. (Read a longer review here>> )


Praying Drunk: Stories, Questions Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781936747634
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sarabande Books - February 4th, 2014

#4  It feels strange to describe the effect of this book to somebody else. After all, how can you explain what it feels like to receive a baseball bat to your head? In these stories, people struggle to connect and die tragically, and at the center of everything is Minor himself, a fictionalized figure who sometimes seems so unable to comprehend the pain of the world that he has to backtrack, telling the same story again from different points of view. In its scope, relentlessness, and humanity, PRAYING DRUNK recalls Sun Kil Moon’s 2014 record BENJI—and like that other masterwork, the power of Minor’s book sometimes feels a little diluted when you’re far away from it. But in the moment of reading, PRAYING DRUNK bruises. Is this book for everyone? Of course not. But there’s sometimes catharsis in deep sadness—in approaching the edge and looking over, while your feet stay planted on the ground.


Paper Lantern: Love Stories Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780374146443
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - June 3rd, 2014

Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories Cover Image
$14.00
ISBN: 9780374280505
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - June 3rd, 2014

#3  A writer’s writer? Yes, that cliché certainly applies to Dybek. But while other “writer’s writers” have recently had banner years—think about Deborah Eisenberg or George Saunders—Dybek continues to languish on the margin of American fiction. If there’s justice in the world, PAPER LANTERN will win one of the big year-end prizes and help to change this. Like Alice Munro, Dybek writes stories that feel like novels. Often longer than 30 pages, his best pieces move freely through space and time, pairing the grit of Chicago with transcendence and poetry. But his prime focus is memory—the way that moments of the past, sifted through at random, can create powerful and unexpected portraits of who we are. Consider one story in which a lonely man becomes obsessed with the forgotten Kevin Costner film OPEN RANGE because he recalls an ex-girlfriend inexplicably quoting from it. Or was she quoting from it? Has he misremembered? Is he simply chasing his past down a dark—and, perhaps, dead-end—corridor? Dybek’s stories have wings, and they can fly far overhead, only to then surprise you by descending and perching right on your back. (ECSTATIC CAHOOTS, released at the same time as PAPER LANTERN, is the lesser book, but that doesn’t mean much, since it’s lesser somewhat by design, presenting in 200 pages fifty short stories, some remarkable, some forgettable, but all distinctive in one way or another.)


In the Course of Human Events Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9781619022942
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Soft Skull Press - April 15th, 2014

#2  Clyde Twitty isn’t a bad person—just a desperate one. In his early twenties and living in a recession-scarred small town, he works two part-time jobs, owes the IRS money through no fault of his own, and has begun to blame the federal government for all his woes. Into his life comes the Smalls family—especially its patriarch, Jay, who seems to “see” something in Clyde. At first, Jay wants to train Clyde in karate as a self-esteem boost…but from there, Jay’s motives become more sinister, until finally the reader—if not Clyde himself—starts to wonder why Jay keeps recommending the kind of books Timothy McVeigh read leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing. Harvkey’s astonishing debut novel forces the reader to empathize with a character as he gradually loses his humanity, while also presenting a portrait of the contemporary survivalist movement. How is one’s hatred of the federal government formed, and why does this hatred drive some young men toward violence? Harvkey answers these questions without fear, and the result is the scariest novel of the year—scary because, even in its most violent and over-the-top moments, it feels like only a slight exaggeration of very real American paranoia, the kind we see during each 24-hour news cycle.


Thrown Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781936747924
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sarabande Books - October 14th, 2014

#1  Is THROWN the best book I read this year, or just the most book? In this work of nonfiction, a philosophy student—not so much Kerry Howley as “Kerry Howley”—finds herself drawn to the spectacle of mixed martial arts and two fighters in particular, one up-and-coming, the other battling obscurity. Though relatively slim—Howley hasn’t written a 600-page opus here—THROWN manages to do many different things with envy-inducing skill. (She’s the kind of writer I drive myself crazy checking my own age against. In other words, why does she have to be so young? Why can’t she be in her late fifties? She was already working on this book when she was my age. What the hell am I doing?) A sports story; a portrait of a subculture; a philosophical inquiry; a journalistic study of two men; a satire of academic pretension: where to begin? Howley doesn’t see these different styles/narratives as disparate; instead, she sees them all as part of the same spectacle. Like the fights she portrays with a mix of blood and poetry, Howley’s THROWN overwhelms.

And five more great books, in alphabetical order by author…


Inside Madeleine Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781616953096
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Soho Press - May 13th, 2014

Sensitive, ugly, vomit-inducing, raw—Bomer’s stories of young women feel like confessions. Imagine you’ve picked up a friend’s diary. As you flip through the pages, you’ll feel a mix of fascination and guilt. Here, Bomer seems to say as she hands you her most honest thoughts. Good luck. (Read a longer review here>> )


To Rise Again at a Decent Hour Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780316033978
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Little Brown and Company - May 13th, 2014

CATCH-22 in a dentist’s office? Sure, it’s tempting to describe Ferris’s third novel this way—but it has more to say about our relationship to social media and religion than any book I’ve read recently. After the effectively dour THE UNNAMED, Ferris is back in satire mode, energized and finding targets in the banality of everyday life.


Pills and Starships Cover Image
$22.95
ISBN: 9781617752759
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Akashic Books - June 10th, 2014

Mermaids in Paradise Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780393245622
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 3rd, 2014

Okay, so actually two books, but how to separate these twin 2014 titles from the great Lydia Millet? Both are works that dwell on extinction and the end of the world. The first is a YA novel that runs counter to nearly every YA trend; the second is a satire that puts cynical adults face-to-face with mermaids. Both books entertain, but they also issue dire warnings about the state of our environment. You’ll laugh—until you realize it’s too late, and the world has crumbled around you. (Read a longer review of PILLS AND STARSHIPS here>> . Read an interview with Millet here>> )


The Transcriptionist Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781616202545
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill - May 13th, 2014

An elegy to a dying way of life, Rowland’s debut examines the newspaper business at a moment of transition. The main character—a woman who transcribes interviews for journalists—tries to hunt down information about an unidentified person who threw herself to the lions. Along the way, Rowland ponders questions of objectivity in an evolving media landscape where subjectivity is rewarded. (Read a longer review here>> )


A Moody Fellow Finds Love and Then Dies Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781937402624
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Outpost19 - April 1st, 2014

The title says it all. Yes, the main character is a moody fellow (named Moody Fellow). Yes, he finds love. Yes, he dies. But this book is witty, playful, honest, and sad. Watson’s voice—wise, irreverent, and unimpeachably kind—is like nothing else. You’ll read this book in an afternoon, but it’ll live in your brain for a long, long time.


Our Year in Books: Mary-Catherine

As I looked back at another year of reading, I was struck by how many of my favorite books were characterized by endings. Not subtle endings, like breakups, finished projects, or heartfelt goodbyes. No, we’re talking about the end of everything we know. My favorite books this year stood on a precipice between old worlds and new ones and asked: What comes next? What do we do with this new world where nothing is like it was, and I’m not who I was, and the things that held us up and together have fallen away? Who do I get to become now that I don’t have to be myself anymore--now that nobody even knows who I was?

Station Eleven Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780385353304
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - September 9th, 2014

Let’s just start with a bang and talk about Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN. My full, day-after-I-finished-haze of a review is here, and keep in mind that I originally intended it to be one paragraph and just couldn’t. stop. gushing. This is one of the most obvious additions to the list, as it’s literally about the end of everything: electricity, the Internet, chocolate chip cookies, society as we know it. Perhaps the most special part of this book is how it celebrates today and the marvels of a world with refrigerators and global communication in the palm of our hand. It’s macro and micro and quite perfect. There’s something in it for everyone, so fair warning: I’ll probably try to make you read it. 


Glory O'Brien's History of the Future Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780316222723
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - October 14th, 2014

An entirely different take on an altered future comes in young adult legend A.S. King’s newest novel. In GLORY O’BRIEN’S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE, eighteen-year-old Glory graduates from high school with no friends--except for her next door neighbor/lifelong forced friend--and her homebound dad. Her mom, an accomplished photographer, committed suicide when Glory was four, and her relationship to that death--and the mental illness that led to it--defines her relationships to others and herself. When a weird--and weirdly plausible--night of drinking imbues her with the ability to see people’s pasts and futures, she discovers a purpose for not just her art, but her sheer existence. King beautifully weaves snippets of a future civil war defined by widespread oppression of women, with Glory’s struggle to understand why some friendships last, her mother’s legacy, and how to move forward. The latter is particularly poignant, as Glory seems to know exactly what she’s moving toward. 


The Book of Strange New Things Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780553418842
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Hogarth - October 28th, 2014

I didn’t expect to put THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS on my list of favorites for the year, but oh man, I adored it. I took it on vacation and read all 500 pages in a matter of days. In this book, Peter is chosen as a Christian missionary to the distant planet Oasis, but must leave behind his wife, Bea. As he gets to know the alien community on Oasis, his limited communication with Bea reflects his increasing distance from the world he left. In turn, she is his--and our--only link to what’s happening on Earth. Faber crafts the text to expertly convey Peter’s alienation (pun intended) from Bea, his fellow settlers on Oasis, and humanity itself. I read this book and went on the journey with him. This book might have had the most raw and emotional writing I encountered this year. 


Dear Committee Members Cover Image
$22.95
ISBN: 9780385538138
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Doubleday Books - August 19th, 2014

Julie Schumacher’s DEAR COMMITTEE MEMBERS was quite possibly my favorite book of the year. You may be thinking, “How does this fit with a list of books about the end of the world?” The short answer is, it does not. The longer answer is that it’s an even worse scenario: the end of academia and humanities education as we know it!!...at least, it is if you ask Dr. Jay Fitger, creative writing professor and the protagonist of our tale. Though it’s told entirely in letters of recommendation, the novel is not a slave to that form. In fact, I can’t imagine it written any other way! This hilarious critique of American academia is satisfying, insightful, and so so fun. My full review is here


Grasshopper Jungle Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780525426035
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Dutton Books - February 11th, 2014

Andrew Smith is one of the most exciting writers out there right now, because he’s not afraid to be bold. GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE tells the story of Austin Szerba, who is in love with his girlfriend and his best friend. While he figures out his feelings, a herd of radioactive, human-sized praying mantises are taking over his small Iowa town and, you know, the globe. The end of the human age juxtaposed with sexual confusion and a healthy dose of profanity: how could this not be great? Utterly original and unafraid, GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE will entertain and challenge you. And if you’re in a gift-giving frame of mind, you can cement your spot as the cool aunt and buy this for every seventeen-year-old boy you know. 


The Crane Wife Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781594205477
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Penguin Press - January 23rd, 2014

There’s a good chance I’ve sold you a copy of THE CRANE WIFE at some point since it came out this spring. Patrick Ness is a favorite of mine, and this book has everything I’ve come to expect from him: whimsy, but anchored by deep longing and emotional resonance. Part fable, part midlife crisis story, this book is about the end of George’s boring, mediocre existence running a London copy shop. When he meets Kumiko, a mysterious artist, they become muses for each other and discover new depths to their creativity. I closed this book and wanted to make art! I felt inspired from some deep, mythological place within to create things, and consequently, I started writing phrases like “deep, mythological place within.” 


The Last Days of California Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780871405883
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - January 20th, 2014

Mary Miller’s debut, THE LAST DAYS OF CALIFORNIA, was so damn good. Just thinking about it now, I’m all wrapped up in it again and can’t seem to use my words. The story takes place over a four-day road trip that takes fifteen-year-old Jess and her family across the country just ahead of the rapture that her father believes is right around the corner. The rest of the family exists in various stages of doubt, which Miller treats with elegant, moving attention. I loved the closeness of the writing; you feel the claustrophobia of the road trip, the sterility of hotel bathrooms, the fragile family tension. Like THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEWS THINGS, this novel isn’t afraid to grapple with faith on a day-to-day, ups-and-downs, personal level. It doesn’t give you answers, but you feel like it will be there for you while you search for them yourself. 


On Such a Full Sea Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781594486104
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - January 7th, 2014

We read ON SUCH A FULL SEA by Chang-Rae Lee as part of an impromptu book club among the booksellers in the store--and we all loved it! It’s a weird, whimsical, and very literary take on a dystopian novel, a combination that’s so refreshing in this mega-popular genre. Lee frames the story of Fan, a young runaway from the B-Mor settlement, with the legends of her escape and what’s remembered in the town’s whispers as a heroic journey. This device subtly suggests that the young girl’s exodus was the end of blind obedience in the strict, regulated colony and sparked a revolution in the minds of her neighbors and friends. Subtlety is the showpiece here and sets this work apart. Lee’s writing is like a watercolor painting; the world building is infused with geopolitical and multicultural streams that bring unexpected richness and depth to the story. I’m so excited for Chang-Rae Lee’s Brazos visit on January 14th and hope to see you there! 


The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780763665661
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Candlewick Press (MA) - March 25th, 2014

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER is on this list because it marks the end of your excuses not to read young adult fiction. This book has beautifully restrained magical realism, a multi-generational family saga, very real stakes, and a great cover. The emotional heft of this book is not watered down or sanitized for teenage consumption: it’s raw and beautiful and not always easy to read. 


We Were Liars Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780385741262
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Delacorte Press - May 13th, 2014

What better way to close out my recap than with the first book I read this year: WE WERE LIARS, by E. Lockhart. There are a lot of ends in this book. I won’t tell you about them, though--you have to read it for yourself. After that, you’ll need a friend to talk about it with, and I’ll be here. Waiting. Waiting for that moment when you burst through the Brazos door, exclaiming “How? What? I didn’t--! She didn’t--! How could--? I...we...they...agh this book!” Then I’ll pat you on the shoulder and make you a cup of hot cocoa and we’ll work our way through this emotional journey together. For plot hints, check out my review here.

It’s been a great year! I can’t wait to see what new beginnings 2015 holds.


Our Year in Books: Brooke

Every great book should contain a description of food. I love to hear what people are eating, whether it’s those Proustian madeleines or green eggs and ham. And when I read about food, it makes me hungry. It’s one of the great trials of my life that it is almost impossible to literally eat and read at the same time. Ride the bus and read, sure. Sit in math class and read, definitely. But it’s pretty difficult to cut steak and read Marilynne Robinson simultaneously. Still, even if you have to juggle cutlery, there’s nothing better than a tasty snack and a good book--and what better place to consume food for both the body and the mind than at a local eatery? Grab a book and indulge in a tasty treat at one of these great local spots.


Loitering: New and Collected Essays Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781935639879
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Tin House Books - November 11th, 2014

I fell in love with essays this year, and Charles D’Ambrosio’s collection tops the list. D’Ambrosio’s essays are funny, moving, and subversive, whether the author is wondering where he can find just “a pork chop’s worth” of whale for dinner or ruminating on the Seattle of his childhood, where there was “an abundance of clams and a paucity of culture.” Chuck is just great, and you’re going to love him.

The Snack
Goode Company Seafood
In a nod to the nautical themes of these essays, go eat some seafood. It might come from the Gulf instead of Seattle’s fish markets, but hey, we’re trying to keep things local. In addition to trying to hunt down some whale meat for dinner, at one point D’Ambrosio roasts a piece of fish over a fire using the dipstick from his truck as a skewer. See what I mean? This guy is awesome.


Faces in the Crowd Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781566893541
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - May 13th, 2014

No one can make a cigarette sound more delicious than Valeria Luiselli. I was hooked on the novel when I hit this description of the office where the narrator works as a translator: “It was a pleasant, comfortable place and, what’s more, I was allowed to smoke...I would sit down at my desk, roll a cigarette of Virginia tobacco, and work late into the night.”

The Snack
Smoke a Cigarette at Agora
Back in the day, everyone was allowed to smoke inside the Agora. I remember walking into it for the first time to a haze of blue smoke drifting skyward to the balcony. Now you have to sit on the patio--but what a pleasant patio it is. Light up and linger in the fractured, beautiful world of Luiselli’s fiction. Get a cup of coffee or a beer to go with that cigarette. This book is pretty short and fueled by cigarettes and coffee, you’ll probably motor through it and want some more. You’re in luck because Luiselli wrote a fantastic book of essays, SIDEWALKS, released at the same time. Go on a bender and read them back to back. You won’t regret it.


Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau Cover Image
By Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (Illustrator)
$16.95
ISBN: 9781419712197
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harry N. Abrams - September 2nd, 2014

I’m a sucker for picture books. I think I like them more than most kids do. Madame Chapeau is a lonely hatmaker who has lost her prized birthday bonnet. Packaged in pale pink and filled with pictures of outlandish headwear and delicious cakes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MADAME CHAPEAU is so pretty you’ll want to eat it.

The Snack
Croissant at Common Bond
Don’t worry about strangers judging you for reading a picture book to yourself! Tote your copy of HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MADAME CHAPEAU to Common Bond where you can get a delicious croissant the size of your face.


Fourth of July Creek Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062286444
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - May 27th, 2014

It’s manly, it’s gritty, it’s got guns and vicious dog attacks. FOURTH OF JULY CREEK is also a beautifully written adventure yarn (plus romance, plus addiction). Smith Henderson’s debut about a Montana social worker and his run-ins with a wily mountain man and his young son made a big splash this year, and lucky for you, we’ve still got some signed copies.

The Snack
Whiskey at Poison Girl
You better drink some whiskey with this one. Please drink responsibly. Or don’t. No one in this book does.


Weasels Cover Image
By Elys Dolan, Elys Dolan (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780763671006
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Nosy Crow - February 25th, 2014

Another fantastic picture book! These weasels are bent on world domination, but something has gone terribly wrong with their machine. Fueled by massive amounts of coffee, the weasels scurry around trying to find a solution. This book is chock full of hilarious details that reward repeat readings.

The Snack
Cortado at Catalina
These weasels are cracked out on coffee for most of this book, so you’d better go to Catalina and get a cup yourself. Every cup of coffee from Catalina is like Mary Poppins--practically perfect in every way--but the cortado is especially choice.


On Immunity: An Inoculation Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9781555976897
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - September 30th, 2014

Another great essay collection. Eula Biss's essays about the immunization debate range from the personal to the body politic and back again. Drawing on her experiences as a mother and an astonishing diversity of sources, Biss plumbs our ancient fear of infection. Acknowledging the permeability of our borders and bodies, she arrives at the conclusion that "immunity is a shared space--a garden we tend together." Biss's precise language and wry humor make ON IMMUNITY as engaging as it is informative.

The Snack
Cheese from Houston Dairymaids
Bear with me here--this one is going to be kind of a stretch. Eula Biss talks about early vaccinations, and of course, she talks about smallpox. You know the story: milkmaids never seemed to get the disease, and eventually this guy figured out it was because they were exposed to cowpox, which immunized them against smallpox. At any rate, milk comes from cows and cheese comes from milk. Voila. Eat some cheese with this book. The cheese from Houston Dairymaids is so delicious that whenever we get a cheese plate for an event, we secretly hope no one will show up so we can keep the cheese for ourselves.


Lila Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374187613
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - October 7th, 2014

Return to Gilead in time for the holidays. The latest from Marilynne Robinson, LILA is the history of John Ames’s wife. In GILEAD, she mostly just sits on the porch, but now she gets a voice of her own. Lila’s history is pretty salty, but you know Marilynne--she’s not much for dishing. Although Lila is a former tramp and prostitute, the book is full of hope and redemption (but not in an annoying way).

The Snack
Wine at Camerata
Lila eats a decent amount of corn pone in this book, but no one is excited about that. Have a big glass of red wine because, you know, John Ames is a preacher. Communion and whatnot. Plus, Marilynne Robinson’s novels are slow-moving beauties and should be savored like a fine wine.


Inside Madeleine Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781616953096
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Soho Press - May 13th, 2014

Normally I don't recommend books based on their ability to induce vomiting, but in this case, I feel it’s apt. Paula Bomer’s new short story collection is not for the faint of heart. These gut-wrenching stories about girls at work, in school, or at loose ends will make you laugh out loud and possibly throw up as her characters share the gritty, strange, and poignant details of their lives. Bomer writes with equal power about the tough girl, the quiet girl, and the wild child. The title novella is a heartbreaker about the eating-disordered and lonely Madeleine, whose story loops right around to the opening short story. A stunning collection that you won't forget anytime soon.

The Snack
Phoencia Specialty Foods
Madeleine eats just about everything in this book (until she eats nothing), so you’ll want an array to choose from. Phoenicia has it all: meats, cakes, pies, bread, tea, wine, coffee, beer. Go wild. Just don’t purge afterwards.


Our Year in Books: Keaton

Look What I Can Do! Award for Best Debut:

Shortlist:
Donal Ryan - civil servant from Limerick comes out of nowhere, just about writes the great Gaelic novel of this era...twice, wins every Irish literary prize, the Guardian First Book Award, gets longlisted for the Booker, then quits his day job, thus renewing the hopes of struggling writers everywhere

Katherine Faw Morris - small town girl moves to freaky-hip Brooklyn, writes a highly stylized, ultraviolent take on the bildungsroman, creating one of the most memorable characters in recent memory, and in between takes risqué pictures, raises pitbulls, and generally doesn’t give a shit what you think

Courtney Collins - bespectacled Australian living in an idyllic cottage by a river writes the most disturbing fever-dream of a “Western” since BLOOD MERIDIAN, gets praised by everyone from Patrick DeWitt to Elizabeth Gilbert, freaks me the hell out, then quietly goes back to work on a second novel like none of it ever happened

Winner:
DONAL FECKIN' RYAN!!!! When you announce your arrival to the literary world with not one but two stellar works of fiction in the same year, you’re gonna be hard to beat. In both THE SPINNING HEART and THE THING ABOUT DECEMBER, Ryan perfectly captures the zeitgeist of contemporary rural Ireland--the insular community power structure, the anxiety over the boom and bust of the Celtic Tiger--with Faulknerian insight into the psyches of individuals and the communities they live in. Yet, this very Irish author never fails to tap the vein of universal human drama within his tales. There’s no other way to put it: Donal Ryan is the truth!


Mic Drop Award for Best Ending:

Shortlist:

Young God Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780374534233
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - May 6th, 2014

In the darkness of the North Carolina night, young Nikki Hawkins stakes her claim within the criminal underworld in a bloody coup that is equal parts noir thriller and Greek tragedy; first-time author Morris leaves her readers perched on a razor’s edge of dramatic intensity with a final sentence that will not soon fade from consciousness


Staff Pick Logo
Orfeo Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780393349849
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 2nd, 2014

The fugitive flight of Peter Els had to end somehow and most likely not well, but you will never see this conclusion coming; at an unimaginably emotional moment with nowhere left to turn, Powers has the tragic hero meet his fate in such a way that readers have no choice but to close the book and catch their breath


The Thing about December Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781586422288
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Steerforth Press - August 26th, 2014

After a very hard year, Johnsey Cunliffe has retreated to his home to escape the swirling world outside filled with sadistic bullies, greedy land developers, and angry neighbors; he’s a simple man who just wants to be left alone, but they just won’t go away; what will happen when he’s finally pushed to come out? Ryan ends his second novel this year at the apex of a shocking and heartbreaking

Winner:
ORFEO! This was a hard one. All three novels were remarkable and left you feeling gut-punched in the soul, but the ending of National Book Award-winner Richard Powers' latest offering is damn near perfect. I don’t want to ruin this stunning novel for you, so I will say NO MORE!!!


WTF!? Award for Weirdest Premise That Actually Works:

Shortlist:


Young God Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780374534233
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - May 6th, 2014

Thirteen-year old North Carolina girl decides to take over the family business--the business of being the biggest drug dealer in the county--and she will stop at nothing


The Untold Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780399167096
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Amy Einhorn Books - May 29th, 2014

Three words: dead. baby. narrator.


The Book of Strange New Things Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780553418842
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Hogarth - October 28th, 2014

Christian missionary leaves his beloved wife behind to join the first offworld settlement on a distant planet and bring Jesus to the aliens

Winner:
THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS! The long awaited new novel from Michel Faber could have gone off the rails so easily. I mean, it’s a sci-fi novel about teaching the gospel to the strange, inhuman inhabitants of an alien planet, right? Yet, in the hands of this master, such a premise becomes a somber, philosophical treatise on the power of love and faith against unimaginable circumstances. THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS is an incredibly human novel of ideas masquerading as high science fiction, and it hoists Faber up to the level of Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler. Utterly strange and fascinating!


@Tex_Ulysses Memorial Award for Most Effective Use of Violence in a Novel:

Shortlist:


Young God Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780374534233
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - May 6th, 2014

Combining the brutality of the criminal mind and the amoral innocence of childhood, Nikki Hawkins has more horrific acts under her belt than birthdays; a simply terrifying character


Hold the Dark Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780871406675
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - September 8th, 2014

Homo Homini Lupus; an Arctic chase within a chase cuts a bloody swath across the Alaskan tundra and the last vestige of humanity disintegrates at the farthest reaches of civilization; ravenous wolves, missing children, dark secrets, and a vengeful father illuminate the impotency of law and morality to control the animal in man


Last Winter, We Parted Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781616954550
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Press - October 21st, 2014

psychosexual obsession, a sociopathic photographer who burns his models to death in order to capture their “essence,” and a cult of life-like doll enthusiasts all play their part in the creepiest novel of the year; the violence here is as much mental as physical

Winner:
HOLD THE DARK! William Giraldi’s second novel is so stark and unforgiving, it’d give your brain frostbite if it wasn’t for the torrents of fresh-spilled blood keeping you warm. Yet, for all its carnage, HOLD THE DARK never feels gratuitous, never devolves into a mindless action-adventure or cut-rate Cormac McCarthy impersonation. It is a relentless and original look into the abyss of human nature. Simply unforgettable!


Can’t Make This Shit Up Award for Best Nonfiction Read of the Year:

Shortlist:


Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780871404510
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - March 10th, 2014

Unbelievable true story of an author’s fifteen year friendship with Clark Rockefeller, a man who turns out to be a serial imposter and double-murderer, a sick perversion of the American myth of the self-made man whose deceptions bring into doubt the nature of identity and the very concept of trust


Thrown Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781936747924
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sarabande Books - October 14th, 2014

Bored philosophy grad student stumbles upon a mixed martial arts bout, becomes instantly obsessed with the spectacle, quickly insinuates herself into the lives of two very different fighters, and emerges with an erudite, witty, and rousing profile of sport, violence, and masculinity in contemporary America


The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780300187373
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yale University Press - September 2nd, 2014

greatest music critic of this era offers a non-chronological “secret history” of rock ‘n’ roll that goes places no one would ever expect in playful, utterly captivating vignettes that feature pioneering garage rockers, performance artists, divas playing other divas, and alternate lives for tragic legends Buddy Holly and Robert Johnson

Winner:
THE HISTORY OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IN TEN SONGS! Music criticism is rarely this lyrical or personal. THE HISTORY OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IN TEN SONGS is perhaps Greil Marcus’ greatest achievement. Flying in the face of pop culture’s master narrative, he chooses deep cuts and b-sides to illustrate how the “DNA” of rock music can be found in any song at any time. A masterful work destined to become an instant classic!


Our Year in Books: Liz

Anyone who’s talked to me for more than five minutes probably knows I graduated from Wellesley College, one of New England’s famous Seven Sisters. For 2014, my first full year out of Wellesley, I found myself missing the strong women I’d surrounded myself with for four years--so I filled my empty Wellesley bubble with strong women in stories, and the even stronger women who write them. My time in college taught me that as a woman with a voice, it’s my job to advocate for other women: for female authors and great female characters, all of them incredibly different and with vastly different stories, all told in amazingly diverse ways.

So here’s 2014, Liz’s Year of Ladies Living Dangerously.


The Book: REVOLUTIONARY by Alex Myers
The Lady: Deborah Samson/Robert Shurtliff
The Dangerous Living: As a colonial militia member in the Revolutionary War

Revolutionary Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781451663327
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Simon & Schuster - January 14th, 2014

I kicked off my year with REVOLUTIONARY, the true story of Deborah Samson (one of the author’s ancestors), who took on the identity of Robert Shurtliff to fight in the colonial militia in the last days of the Revolutionary War. As she slips further into Robert’s identity to avoid detection, something happens that I’ve never seen happen in a book before: the narrative changes, referring to Deborah as Robert, and using male pronouns instead of female. REVOLUTIONARY is an incredibly visceral, incredibly private book--Myers keeps us very close to Deborah/Robert, being very clear that neither identity is more or less real than the other. There’s an incredibly strong commentary running through the book about Deborah’s quiet realizations of how she’s been socialized to act as a woman, and how different it is to be a man. REVOLUTIONARY resonated deeply with me as I moved from a mostly single-gender space, as Deborah had, into a more mixed world.



The Book: THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE by Adele Griffin
The Lady: Addison Stone
The Dangerous Living: As a deeply troubled wunderkind of the New York fine arts scene


The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781616953607
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Teen - August 12th, 2014

Addison Stone broke my heart. No, really. This fully-realized fictional biography, told via interviews with her friends and family, draws a compelling picture of a young woman struggling with both the burden of genius and her own mental illness. Addison’s art, displayed in full-color through the book, is both beautiful and haunting, and as someone who’s struggled with both making art and some very low periods, both her art and her story stayed with me long after I finished. Like so many young people who are both talented and vulnerable, Addison is surrounded by people looking to capitalize on her work, or well-meaning people who just don’t understand, or actively terrible people who use her up and spit her out--and naturally, bad things happen. Though we only get glimpses of Addison unfiltered, through her art, the pictures of her, and the few unaltered texts and emails from her we’re given, she is gloriously real. The ways the people in her life see her are so incredibly true to how teen girls are seen, especially teen girls struggling with their mental health: damaged, out-of-control, unladylike...the list goes on. This book would have mattered so much to me as a teenager, and I’m so glad that it exists for the girls like me to-be.



The Book: THE WORST PRINCESS by Anna Kemp & Sara Ogilvie
The Lady: Princess Sue
The Dangerous Living: As a bored princess who teams up with the dragon!


The Worst Princess Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780385371254
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Random House Books for Young Readers - April 22nd, 2014

This book, y’all. This. Book. I was raised on Disney movies--I love me a good princess story. But as an adult, y’know, I’ve come to realize that there are some problems with classical princess stories. Very often, the princesses have absolutely no choice in what happens to them; they’re objects, not actors, and that’s not the best role model to give little girls--someone who has things happen to them, instead of someone who makes things happen. THE WORST PRINCESS is a princess picture book that gives its heroine agency. Princess Sue doesn’t just accept the traditional princess narrative she’s handed--she decides she deserves better and to do what she wants to do. She doesn’t settle. I want to give THE WORST PRINCESS to every little girl who walks through this store.



The Book: BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman
The Lady: Marjorie
The Dangerous Living: As a single mother leading her children though a hostile outdoors she has never seen--blindfolded


Bird Box Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780062259653
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - May 13th, 2014

BIRD BOX, like the previous book on my list, is also heartbreaking--but unlike THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE, BIRD BOX is completely terrifying. This edge-of-your-seat horror novel takes place in a world where something outside drives anyone who sees it homicidally insane. So, naturally, what remains of the world are isolated communities of shut-ins, terrified of letting any outsider in. Marjorie lives in a boarded-up house with her two children--children she hasn’t let herself grow attached to; children she’s named nothing but Boy and Girl; children she’s ruthlessly and relentlessly trained to hear better than dogs or bats, so that when they make their blindfolded escape from the house, she can use her children’s ears as eyes. This book delves deep into the darkness in people, and I have to be honest with you: it messed me up a little. But it’s hopeful, at the end, and it’s a great book about humanity collectively pushing through their fear and terror and making something good together. Author Malerman, while admittedly a dude, did a great job with Marjorie. She’s so conflicted and fearful, but also so resilient and bold--she pushes through her fear, and I would challenge anyone who thinks being a “strong woman” means you can’t be afraid to read BIRD BOX.



The Book: THE GIRLS AT THE KINGFISHER CLUB by Genevieve Valentine
The Ladies: Jo, Lou, Ella, Doris, Hattie, Mattie, Rebecca, Araminta, Sophie, Rose, Lily, and Violet
The Dangerous Living: As a band of dancing sisters determined to live their lives in spite of their controlling father


The Girls at the Kingfisher Club Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9781476739083
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Atria Books - June 3rd, 2014

THE GIRLS AT THE KINGFISHER CLUB are twelve young women--sisters--who’ve spent their whole lives locked in the upper floors of their New York brownstone in the 1920s, except when they sneak out at night to go dancing in speakeasies. Each girl is completely distinct from her sisters; they all have their own fears, motivations, likes, and dislikes--they’re all so REAL. Jo, the eldest, nicknamed “The General,” does her best to keep her sisters together and safe, and she worries if, in so doing, she’s becoming their father. Jo is the nominal main character, though we spend time with all of the girls, and her fears are so deeply-felt and completely understandable--she wants to protect her sisters, but they’ve all been so damaged by their controlling father that she wonders if she’s becoming him by trying to look after them all. For anyone who’s been torn between worlds, or a caregiver to their family like Jo is, her struggles will resonate. Without giving spoilers, I’ll just say that something happens in the middle of the book that forces all the girls to break out of their routines, and shows how incredibly strong and adaptable all twelve of them are. They may have grown up sheltered, but because of Jo, they all know how to make difficult decisions and take charge, and they all find different ways to survive with what skills they have. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club are another bold challenge to what it means to be a strong woman in fiction today.



The Book: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey
The Ladies: Melanie, Helen Justineau, and Caroline Caldwell
The Dangerous Living: As survivors, scientists, and test subjects in a world of ravenous creatures and fraying civilization


Girl with All the Gifts Cover Image
$32.99
ISBN: 9780316278157
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Orbit - June 10th, 2014

Say it with me: zombie books are played-out. Have we all agreed? Okay. Now ignore everything I just said and pick up THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS. I wasn’t even sure this was a zombie book until I was fifty pages in, and by then, I didn’t care. Melanie is the most completely described little person ever; she’s smart and funny, wide-eyed yet wise, but for as intelligent as she is, she is still inescapably childlike and undebatably imprisoned, treated like a lab animal, and we feel for her. I felt as deeply for Melanie as I did for the teacher she lives in awe of, Miss Justineau (Helen, to the rest of us)--a scientist who grows too close to her subjects because it’s impossible not to see them as people, as we do. Carey’s intensely close writing style gets us deeply into the heads of our three female protagonists--the third being Caroline Caldwell, the slightly sociopathic head of research at Melanie’s “school.” I really did not want to come to understand Caroline Caldwell as much as I did, but that speaks hugely to Carey’s incredible ability to represent these three very different women. They’re three very different types of people, and Carey does a fantastic job of not making one woman more or less right than the others--their opinions are incredibly well-balanced. Since there isn’t just one female character to seem like an avatar for all women, each woman can be variably right and wrong, and not have it seem to reflect on women as a whole in these circumstances. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS brings these three viewpoints seamlessly together in an ending that is shocking but curiously inevitable-seeming. Pick it up if you think this genre’s tired and boring--you’ll be pleasantly surprised.



The Book: DARK AEMILIA by Sally O’Reilly
The Lady: Aemilia Bassano Lanyer
The Dangerous Living: As a mistress, would-be poet and mother in plague-torn Elizabethan England


Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781250048134
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Picador USA - May 27th, 2014

I love historical fiction. I write it. I breathe it. I love it, but the inescapable awfulness of how history has treated its female character is--well--inescapable. Most books gloss over this or flinch away from how painfully women were treated at times. DARK AEMILIA does not. Aemilia Bassano, one of the possible historical candidates for the famous Dark Lady of the latter series of Shakespeare’s sonnets, comes vividly to life in these pages, giving a voice to someone who is possibly one of the most famous objects in literary analysis and history. Aemilia wants to be a poet, something women had a very hard time being in Elizabethan England, but even while her ideas are stolen, her poems ripped to shreds, and her life at times put in physical danger, her voice refuses to be silenced. She’s by turns vicious and victimized, hysterical and maternal, loving and hateful, and she is a force of nature. Aemilia’s undoubtedly my new historical crush--a real life Lady M. (oh, yeah--there’s also a fabulous origin story for The Scottish Play, and the play’s curse, for any Shakespeare buffs like me!), glorious in her fury and unstoppable in her vengeance.



The Book: LOCK IN by John Scalzi
The Ladies: Agent Leslie Vann, Cassandra Bell and [SPOILER]
The Dangerous Living: As an FBI agent investigating mind-hopping crimes; as the leader of a separatist movement for the locked-in; and as [STILL A SPOILER]


Lock in: A Novel of the Near Future Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9780765375865
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Books - August 26th, 2014

LOCK IN takes place a few decades in the future, after a virus sweeps the globe and causes sufferers to lose total control of their voluntary nervous system, leaving them “locked in” to their own minds. A small percentages of sufferers don’t become locked in, but have their brains so altered by the disease that they possess the ability to let the consciousness of the locked-in jump into their body, letting the locked-in pilot their bodies and experience the world again. Sounds like nothing could ever go wrong, right? Riiiiight. LOCK IN is a brilliant thriller populated with equally brilliant characters, men and women alike--but obviously, I’m going to gush about the women to you. Agent Leslie Vann and Cassandra Bell are two very different people--Vann is a no-nonsense FBI agent who’s seen it all, and Bell was born locked-in after her mother passed the disease to her in the womb. Bell, therefore, has never properly been in the real world, living her whole life in the liminal cyberspace given to the locked-in to interact in. Vann’s cynicism spoke deeply to me as a fellow cynical jerk, and Cassandra’s peculiar viewpoint is presented like a vision of the future. I loved her. There’s one other character I need to include on this list, because she is amazingly down-to-earth, hardworking, and honorable, but to do so would be a definite spoiler. So, for those who have read the book, click through to hear the author himself discuss it. ...Are you back yet? RIGHT? The coolest. For everybody else who wants to get in on the conversation, read the book and get back to me. We still have signed copies from John Scalzi’s visit in August!



The Book: LUCKY US by Amy Bloom
The Ladies: Iris and Eva
The Dangerous Living: As a would-be actress and the behind-the-scenes help, respectively--and then as many other odd job-workers besides, trying to make a living between World Wars I and II


Lucky Us Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781400067244
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Random House - July 29th, 2014

You don’t get to hear a lot of stories about working-class women and disenfranchised women before World War II--at least, outside of the Dust Bowl. LUCKY US gives us those stories in spades. Iris and Eva, and the women they meet and love, are bright and resilient. Iris can be incredibly selfish, and Eva incredibly stubborn; like magnets, they push and pull at each other, always circling in a complex relationship of love and resentment. Anyone who has siblings can understand the complicated relationship between these two. From Hollywood to Long Island and even London, no matter how disappointed they become in each other, Iris and Eva’s relationship survives--despite Iris’ impulsiveness and Eva’s harshness. I cried when I finished this book--a good, cathartic, happy cry at the resolution.



The Book: THE GIRL FROM THE WELL by Rin Chupeco
The Lady: Okiku
The Dangerous Living: As a ghost who exacts horrible vengeance on the murderers of children (okay, so maybe she’s just dangerous to other people)


The Girl from the Well Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781402292187
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sourcebooks Fire - August 5th, 2014

Okiku scares me. Not just with the vengeance thing (this story is based on the same legend that inspired The Ring, which tells you pretty much all you need to know), but in the way Chupeco perfectly paints how old and wise and sad she is. Can you imagine having to live for hundreds of years, with your only job to see, and punish, the worst in humanity? Okiku is ancient and almost past-human, yet she still cares so deeply for the souls of the children she saves. Her strength is in her resilience, to still feel such an undying caring after so many years of darkness. This book overflows with resilient and caring women--Callie, who is fearlessly determined to save her cousin Tark from a dark spirit threatening to overwhelming; Tark’s mother, present almost only in spirit, but dedicated to saving her son; the miko of the Japanese shrine where the story’s climax leads…but over it all, Okiku’s spirit casts her unearthly, beautiful shadow. She stayed with me long after I finished the book.



The Book: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel
The Ladies: Kirsten--and author Emily St. John Mandel
The Dangerous Living: As an actress in The Traveling Symphony, bringing Shakespeare to the outskirts of a wild civilization; and as an author unafraid to bend genre and convention with a beautiful novel.


Station Eleven Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780385353304
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - September 9th, 2014

Everybody just...read this book. Don’t argue with me. I don’t have time to tell you why; they told me I could only put ten books on this list and I’m pushing my luck throwing on my eleventh ELEVEN here. Just take it home and read it. I’ll give you your money back if you don’t like it. But you will.


Our Year in Books: Mark

It wasn’t a conscious act, reading so many novels by Mexican writers this year. It just happened that way. Invariably, I’m always reading translated fiction from Latin America and Spain, but midway through the year, I realized Mexico was playing a larger role than many other countries. I’d chosen a theme, or perhaps a theme had chosen me. The rules for this list were casual. Some of these books are classics--Juan Rulfo’s PEDRO PÁRAMO, for instance--while most are contemporary, published this year or in the past two years. One will be published next year. One is a memoir by an American writing about Mexico City. Some experiment with genre and style; some are slim and can be read in a sitting; others are expansive, dense, and often drunk with language. All the same, these books demonstrate that our neighbors to the south are routinely producing fantastic literature, a cornucopia of styles and voices as exciting as anything being published around the world. Mexico’s literary scene is nothing short of vibrant. 

Pillar of Salt: An Autobiography, with 19 Erotic Sonnets Cover Image
By Salvador Novo, Marguerite Feitlowitz (Translator), Carlos Monsivais (Introduction by)
$35.00
ISBN: 9780292705418
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Texas Press - April 1st, 2014

PILLAR OF SALT is the thrilling memoir by Mexico’s avant garde author Salvador Novo. This year saw the book in English translation for the first time. Packed with action--passages from PILLAR OF SALT read like an adventure story--and candid depictions of a man’s intellectual and sexual awakening, PILLAR OF SALT presents Mexico as it moves into the 20th century (there’s even a passage where Pancho Villa’s men murder Novo’s uncle that is especially harrowing). More important though is the culture and life of Mexico as it transforms into a modern nation. Novo’s straightforward and satiric insights about Mexico City’s art and cultural elite are also of singular benefit. PILLAR OF SALT gives a snapshot of Mexico’s birth into modernity with a powerful vision, coinciding with a man’s coming-of-age.


Pedro Paramo Cover Image
By Juan Rulfo, Margaret Sayers Peden (Translator), Susan Sontag (Foreword by)
$14.00
ISBN: 9780802133908
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - March 10th, 1994

The Burning Plain and Other Stories Cover Image
By Juan Rulfo, George D. Schade (Translator), Kermit Oliver (Illustrator)
$17.95
ISBN: 9780292701328
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: University of Texas Press - January 1st, 1971

It’s not that modern Mexican literature wouldn’t exist without Juan Rulfo, but it would certainly be hard to imagine. Rulfo’s reputation rests on two slim books: the novel PEDRO PÁRAMO and the collection of short stories THE BURNING PLAIN. Both are exquisite, austere exercises in the form. Published in 1955, PEDRO PÁRAMO is the surreal and haunting story of a man searching the town of Comala for his father, a town populated by ghosts and whispers. The events and psychology of this novel exist deep in the surreal. If Franz Kafka had written a novel in Mexico, chances are it would have been very similar. THE BURNING PLAIN is one of the best collections of short stories I’ve ever read and includes the classic “Tell Them Not to Kill Me,” the story of a man’s fate arriving and his desperation to stay alive. Indeed, Rulfo’s stories, which all take place in bleak landscapes, are rich with themes of revenge and the carnal desire to avoid death. These stories, with their masterful narrative techniques and elemental language, unflinchingly show the violence that dominates the landscape. A precursor to the magical realism that would soon come to represent Latin American literature, Rulfo is indispensable.


Quesadillas Cover Image
By Juan Pablo Villalobos, Rosalind Harvey (Translator), Neel Mukherjee (Introduction by)
$14.00
ISBN: 9780374533953
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - February 11th, 2014

I loved Juan Pablo Villalobos’ first novel in English, DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, and his second, QUESADILLAS, is another gem of dark social satire. I can’t print the first line of this novel. Suffice it to say, it is explicit and a clear harbinger of things to come. QUESADILLAS is a novel about the struggles of a poor Mexican family--a family whose social and economic lives, and the economic life of Mexico, are displayed by the amount of quesadillas their mother can afford. There’s a lot of children in this family, by the way, so if you get two quesadillas, things are going pretty badly. Five? Eh, things are looking up. There are fabulous insults in this book: to each other, to the government, and even to oneself. There’s also alien spacecrafts, religious pilgrims, and a plethora of “your mama” jokes. This isn’t lowbrow, though; this is an indictment of a government bedeviled by fraud and an economy that can’t sustain itself or look after its own. Like all good satire, there’s a reason, a purpose, and a heart behind the laughs.


Almost Never Cover Image
By Daniel Sada, Katherine Silver (Translator)
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555976095
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - April 10th, 2012

Daniel Sada was a giant in Mexico. A literary legend. Sadly, ALMOST NEVER is Sada’s only work in English, the translation just nearing completion when he died in 2011. The story is simple: a young man must choose whether to marry the prostitute he visits each week, or whether to court the young, provincial girl he meets when he goes back home for a wedding. Sada’s writing is dense, funny, and relentless: pages upon pages of unsurpassable prose, a parade of different voices and a cacophony of invention. A small, minute thought can end up meandering for pages (to the reader’s delight), which brilliantly exemplifies the narrator’s indecision. The story is simple, but the way it is told is not. Let’s hope more of Sada’s work will be translated into English in the future. He is a treasure.


Hypothermia Cover Image
By Alvaro Enrigue, Brendan Riley (Translator)
$14.50
ISBN: 9781564788733
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dalkey Archive Press - May 2nd, 2013

The stories that make up Enrigue’s first collection in English are varied, bold, and startling for their range as much as their originality. They take place mostly in the United States, peopled by professors and professionals, and in ways both obvious and not-so-obvious, they deal with the immigrant experience. Gringos are mentioned in several stories, and an English-speaking reader immersed in the story will very likely find themselves nodding, Yeah, we are like that, aren’t we? A husband and father on vacation. A deranged garbage man. A family on a bike ride in Washington D.C. caught in a vicious storm. The possibilities of these situations offer Enrigue myriad opportunities to entertain and thrill, and he misses none. The table of contents at the front of the book has the stories grouped by subtitles, and for good reason: the sheer variety of these stories makes for adventurous reading. One is never certain what sort of story awaits them next. This, of course, makes the book exhilarating. The final section, “Two Waltzes Toward Civilization,” follows a Mexican chef who has been invited to compete in a television cooking show in Peru. What follows--told in first person--is by turns hilarious, thrilling, and very sexual. I caught myself thinking I was in the middle of a novel I didn’t want to end. Speaking of novels, Enrigue’s first in English, SUDDEN DEATH, will be published in 2015, and anyone who reads HYPOTHERMIA will be waiting anxiously for its arrival.


Natural Histories Cover Image
$18.95
ISBN: 9781609805517
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Seven Stories Press - June 10th, 2014

Quiet. Haunting. Surreal. The stories that make up Guadalupe Nettel’s collection NATURAL HISTORIES are subtle, yet they stay with you long after reading. The simplest way to describe these stories is to say they are about the relationships we have with one another and the animals in our lives, but that’s selling them short. Very short. Nettel’s characters are often found at moments of emotional distress. The way we act, behave, and treat ourselves in these instances says a lot about human nature. Is Nettel writing about human nature or animal nature? Or is she writing about the animal inside each of us? In any case, characters have epiphanies with the help of their animal counterparts. In “The Marriage of a Red Fish,” a woman witnesses the collapse of her marriage through the lens of a pair of Siamese fighting fish, whose fatal cohabitation reflects the actions of the husband and wife. Other stories are more subtle and perverse, exploring how the natural world dictates our lives. The English speaking world will be able to read her memoir THE BODY WHERE I WAS BORN in 2015. Additionally, this November, Nettel was awarded Anagrama’s prestigious Herralde Prize, whose past winners include Roberto Bolaño and Álvaro Enrigue. I am excited to read everything by this author.


Faces in the Crowd Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781566893541
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - May 13th, 2014

Sidewalks Cover Image
By Valeria Luiselli, Christina Macsweeney (Translator), Cees Nooteboom (Introduction by)
$15.95
ISBN: 9781566893565
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Coffee House Press - May 13th, 2014

Subtle, intelligent, philosophical, Valeria Luiselli’s writing is hard to pin down. And that’s a good thing. This year saw the English debut of her novel, FACES IN THE CROWD, and her book of essays, SIDEWALKS. Both are elegant and multifaceted, and both should be read immediately. FACES IN THE CROWD focuses on a young mother living in New York who, while working on her novel, inadvertently begins blending with her own story the life of Gilberto Owen, a dead Mexican poet who haunts her. The past mixes with the future, and the book the young author is working on becomes the book you, the reader, are reading. It’s difficult to explain her novel--which, of course, is a good thing. It’s literary and original, and the prose leaves fingerprints on your mind. Luiselli’s essays are no less astonishing. SIDEWALKS roams the streets of the world, considering such things as the layout of Mexico City, the differences between walking and bicycling, and the psychology of place, which is especially important as the reader goes from the Bronx to Mexico and even to poet Joseph Brodsky’s grave. Luiselli’s novel THE STORY OF MY TEETH will be published in English this April.


The Interior Circuit Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780802122568
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Grove Press - July 2nd, 2014

I fell in love with Mexico City through Roberto Bolaño’s THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES. Novelist and journalist Francisco Goldman (partly responsible for bringing Bolaño to the states) only confirmed my love with THE INTERIOR CIRCUIT, his heartbreaking paean to this dynamic mega-city. Part memoir, part reportage, it follows Goldman as he emerges from the grief of losing his wife, Aura, five years earlier. The book begins with Goldman wanting to learn to drive in Mexico City--no simple task, as seasoned taxi drivers are known to get lost in its serpentine routes. It is to honor his late wife that Goldman attempts this game of “destination and chance,” since both shared strong attachments to the capital city. Goldman writes that the streets suggest “a metaphysical limitless, a bewildering chaos that is actually possessed of a mysterious order that even those who’ve spent a lifetime exploring the city can only dimly perceive.” Reading THE INTERIOR CIRCUIT, I felt I had explored every chaotic inch of Mexico City, from youth marches and student rallies to art galleries and decadent cantinas. What stands apart from the amazing descriptions of restaurants and apartment houses and Goldman’s close friends is Goldman’s writing itself, which, quite simply, is something to behold. He is that rarest of authors that the reader feels he or she knows intimately after reading something, anything, they’ve written. For anyone interested in Mexico City--its politics, arts, and, yes, its police and government corruption--look no further: you have found an exalted guide.


A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE


Signs Preceding the End of the World Cover Image
By Yuri Herrera, Lisa Dillman (Translator)
$13.95
ISBN: 9781908276421
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: And Other Stories - March 10th, 2015

A stark, visionary tale of a young woman crossing the border from Mexico into the United States to find her brother and deliver a package, Yuri Hererra’s SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD is a masterstroke of storytelling. The young woman, Makino, makes her way through this hellish and surreal landscape, only too aware of the constant threats of men, cartel, border patrols, and natural elements. Everything in this compact novel is expressed with economy. The dialogue rings true, and the language a hybrid of border lingo (with English being referred to as Anglo). There is something fantastical about this novel, yet one realizes it’s because it’s too true. The reader can't help but realize that, at this moment, someone is escaping something bad in hopes of finding something better. And not always with success. There are tinges of Cormac McCarthy and Juan Rulfo in Herrera’s story, yet he is a writer confident and assured. SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD can be read in one sitting, perhaps two, and will stay with you much longer. It will be released in March of 2015.


Our Year in Books: Annalia

Here’s the thing: I’m bad at picking favorites. If given too many choices, I often make none. So instead of the traditional Top 10 of 2014 list, I made a “playlist” of the books that got stuck in my head this year. A mix of long and short form, fiction and non-, big names and local writers, these are the books published in 2014 that I would rescue if the store were on fire. 


PUNCHY WORKS BY PUNK BITCHES:

Staff Pick Logo
How to Build a Girl Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062335975
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - September 23rd, 2014

This book inspired the title for this section. What else can I say? Caitlin Moran tells her story with her middle fingers up. In HOW TO BUILD A GIRL, fourteen-year-old Johanna is sick of her situation: failed-rockstar father, too many siblings, stuck on government assistance, no notches in her bedpost. Instead of looking for a hero, she transforms herself into Dolly Wilde, a sexy, scathing music journalist and certified badass. Brilliant, disarmingly charming, and raw to the quick, Caitlin Moran deserves your full attention.


The Palace of Illusions Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781593765422
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Soft Skull Press - September 1st, 2014

Kim Addonizio’s reputation as a poet should be enough to convince you. If it isn’t, PALACE OF ILLUSIONS is the love letter every outsider’s been lacking. Here’s a handful of her protagonists: two friends who seduce men only to steal their money while they’re sleeping, a man who toured with the circus when he was twenty-one, and a young half-vampire pursuing a theatre degree. Gritty and strange, these stories surprise not only through their twists and turns, but also through their blunt portrayal of humanity.


$14.95
SKU: R9780989275934

Most secrets are easy--easy to tell, easy to forgive--but there are a few that you only tell your friends, and even fewer for just your inner circle. Then there are the rare, ugly ones that don’t get told--not to your journal, not your best friends, not anyone. MISADVENTURE is about those secrets. Grider crafts each story with enough sincerity, poise, and bewilderment that reaching the end demands going outside and breathing in deep.

BOOKS I COULDN'T HANDSELL YOU BECAUSE I WAS CRYING ABOUT THEIR GREATNESS:


The Ocean at the End of the Lane Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780062255662
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow & Company - June 3rd, 2014

Even after six months of meditating on it, it’s still hard for me to say exactly what THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is about. It’s about Amanda Palmer. It’s about Lettie Hempstock and her ocean. It’s about Neil Gaiman as a child. Mostly, it’s about feeling invincible, even though all evidence proves the contrary. I read this book in mere hours. Forget that you might not read or like fantasy. Forget that you’re not a kid anymore. This book is important for everyone of all ages.


We Were Liars Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780385741262
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Delacorte Press - May 13th, 2014

Before WE WERE LIARS came out, all the promotional materials made advance readers promise to lie about the ending if anybody asked. In solidarity! In the name of books and booksellers! I’m going to continue keeping that promise, but these are things I can say: WE WERE LIARS will make even the most avid John Green hater believe in young adult fiction, and the only time I’ve ever cried more reading a book is during Khaled Hosseini’s A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS. If e. lockhart ever comes to Houston, I will hug her for days.


God Is an Astronaut Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781620403563
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - July 1st, 2014

Fact: all of us at one time or another have said something we wanted to take back. For Jess, it’s when she tells her friend Arthur about the accident: her husband’s space tourism company launched a shuttle that exploded seconds after liftoff. Liam, her husband, swears Jess to secrecy, but when news crews start showing up on the lawn and gawking at her children, she needs to tell at least someone. Away on sabbatical, Arthur is the perfect candidate--until her occasional notes become daily missives that start to disrupt her life. GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT is the archive of Jess’s emails--neurotic, honest, and quippy as any I have ever written or received.

BOOKS TO READ WHEN YOUR INNER COMPASS IS BROKEN:


Hustle Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781936747771
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sarabande Books - May 13th, 2014

If you hate poetry because it’s boring and weird, buy this book. Before giving up chasing skirts for writing poems, David Tomas Martinez grew up in San Diego, running with a gang and enlisting in the Navy. Honest, present, and open, HUSTLE is a collection of poems full of stories you go to bars to hear. From “The Only Mexican” to “Midterm Answers for English B,” Martinez reminds me that those weird, dirty teen years are always worth revisiting.


The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780547519272
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Houghton Mifflin - January 14th, 2014

Once upon a time, David Stuart MacLean found himself in India without his memory. He never got it back. Impossible as it may seem, that’s the story in MacLean’s memoir THE ANSWER TO THE RIDDLE IS ME. After a rare reaction to a common antimalarial drug, MacLean attempts to follow photographs, family members, and old papers back to his former life as a jokester, scholar, and lover, only to discover more and more blanks. Terrifying and compelling, MacLean examines the degree to which memory is linked to identity and what happens when they become severed.


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Cover Image
By Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)
$25.95
ISBN: 9780385352109
Availability: Backordered
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - August 12th, 2014

For months, COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI was inseparable from my fond memories of #MURAKAMANIA, but the experience of reading it and watching Tsukuru wander was much different from the hype that preceded it. When Tsukuru’s closest high school friends abandon him for no apparent reason, years of silence and strange dreams take their place. This daze continues until he meets Sara, who wants to know the full story and inspires Tsuruku to find out for himself what really happened. Stylized and jam-packed with feeling, Murakami is my trusty literary sidekick when I’m having Wes Anderson withdrawal.

THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING:


The Other Side Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781935639831
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Tin House Books - July 15th, 2014

It took me at least a month to write a shelf-talker for this book, and when I did, this is what it said: “the most important book you will read this year. pinkie promise.” That’s still how I feel, but it’s hard to explain why. Most every synopsis available about THE OTHER SIDE will mention rape, kidnapping, and/or intention to kill. I cannot stress this enough: like the tip of the iceberg, that is only a fraction of Lacy Johnson’s story and what it means for her to tell it. This memoir is for anyone who has ever loved.


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